Basin Notes - June 2006

Duckling creches are in evidence

Today as I write it is the longest day - the summer solstice - conjuring up past memories of blue skies with the smell of wild honeysuckle wafting on a gentle breeze.

Alas, not this year. As I look out of the window, 40mph winds lash the trees, squally showers dash from a darkened sky and the mercury struggles to reach 15°C.

Yes it is June, trying to be as unpredictable as April and May. Irrespective of the weather, however, Mother Nature is busy ushering in the next generation.

On the Basin, several creches of eider can be seen, with 330 ducklings being counted on June 18. Shelduck too will form creches but these are seldom seen on the Basin as there is only a small breeding population.

Eider will lay four to six eggs but shelduck will often lay double this number. A few days ago I saw a pair with 18 ducklings. Sometimes a female will lay in another duck's nest, thus swelling the numbers. The ducklings are most vulnerable during their first few weeks when crows and gulls see them as easy prey.

A pair of gadwall was seen on the 2nd and 12 tufted duck on the 11th. A flock of female goosander is growing by the day as they use the Basin as a safe haven during their wing moult. Red-breasted merganser numbers are healthy and a single little egret has just arrived. Grey heron numbers are increasing, with 34 counted on the 20th.

Summer migrants breeding around the nature reserve will include sedge and willow warbler, chiffchaff and whitethroat. Over the Basin, regular "fishermen" are osprey and sandwich, common and Arctic tern. Also seen this month were greylag, brent and pink-footed geese.

Three bar-headed geese have been seen recently. These elegant birds are commonly found in wildfowl collections and are likely to be escapees moving around our estuaries and inland waterways. However, their natural breeding habitat is the highlands of Central Asia. They migrate across the mighty Himalayan mountains and have been known to reach heights of 27,000 feet. Their plumage is grey and white with a dark grey neck which is marked at either side with a bold white vertical stripe. Their name conies from the two black bars which curve around the base and side of the head.

Around the Visitor Centre the first of the young sand martins will fledge this month and the swallows under the eaves are incubating. The young blue tits in the "camera nest box" fledged on the 16th. I have no doubt the local sparrowhawk will be influential in how many survive!